Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula have two glittering coastlines with a beach to suit every mood and moment. Whether you're after buzzing beachside bars, secluded coves, safe swimming beaches or a romantic spot for a sunset picnic, our guide to Cape Town’s best beaches will point you in the right direction.
And if you're looking for seaside accommodation, our list of Cape Town's best beach hotels will place you right where you want to be – a few steps from the sand.
1. Clifton Beaches 1-4
Situated in one of Cape Town’s most sought-after and affluent suburbs, Clifton’s beaches are a favourite of locals and tourists alike and are arguably some of the best in the country. Ten minutes from the city centre and comprising four beach coves separated by giant boulders that protect against Cape Town’s unruly ‘south-easter’ wind, the soft white sand and majestic blue water of each of the four beaches are an unofficial playground for those looking to take advantage of those hot summer days and jovial holiday atmosphere.
Unoriginally named first, second, third and fourth beach, each cove has a personality of its own, attracting eclectic groups of people of all ages:
- 1st Beach: frequented by locals and vacationers staying in the adjacent luxury apartments, the off-leash dog-friendly beach is the perfect place to escape the crowd for a peaceful day by the seaside. If you’re in the mood for a bit of body or board surfing, the current is just strong enough to delight your inner surfer.
- 2nd Beach: this little slice of heaven sees a lot of traffic from a laidback younger crowd, particularly students. The more active beachgoer can enjoy a day of volleyball, beach bats and tossing around a frisbee in this secluded cove.
- 3rd Beach: Clifton’s gay beach is a popular rendezvous spot for gay men, but is open to everyone. The atmosphere is buzzy and merry, the beach is not as crowded as its more popular neighbour, and the weather conditions are always perfect for catching a tan.
- 4th Beach: the biggest and most popular of the four beaches, 4th beach is commonly frequented by trendy people tanning their toned bodies and wholesome families building sandcastles. A classic Cape Town beach with a great holiday atmosphere, there’s no better place to while away your days than on this soft sandy bay, watching the yachts bob on the water as you soak up the sunshine. Fourth beach also holds Blue Flag status, an international award given to beaches that are clean, safe, offer great amenities and implement environmentally conscious initiatives.
Although Clifton’s beaches aren’t ideal for swimming, with water temperatures averaging 10°C (50°F), this doesn’t deter from their world-class quality; besides, diving into the icy sea doesn’t seem so bad on those exceptionally hot summer days. Step onto the soft, warm sand and hire an umbrella and chairs before making yourself comfortable near the sea, watching as the tide rolls in and out on the shore.
Feeling a little too hot while tanning in the sun? Grab a cold drink or ice lolly (ice pop) from one of the roaming vendors. And when you’re feeling a little peckish, tuck into your packed picnic lunch or pop back up the stairs to the Bungalow Restaurant, located next to the 4th beach parking lot and a quick walk from the other beaches.
On balmy summer evenings, locals love to round off the day with a sunset picnic on a Clifton beach. Head down in the late afternoon and you’ll find a festive atmosphere with blankets spread out on the sand, baskets stuffed with deli-bought goodies and candles ready to burn late into the night. Just be warned: it's illegal to drink alcohol on Cape Town’s beaches (the popular beaches are policed) and you'll have to carry all your stuff down from the car park – and back up again – via a long series of steep stairs, so pack light.
TIP: Clifton is a popular spot during the summer and parking is scarce. If you’re planning on travelling by car, be sure to arrive extra early to secure a spot in the small parking area near 4th beach or along Victoria Road. We’d recommend using Uber to avoid the headache of finding parking. And remember to pack light as all the beaches are only accessible via stepped pathways and winding, narrow staircases.
Sunbathing and people-watching.
2. Camps Bay
Just down the road from Clifton you’ll find the gently curving crescent of Camps Bay – the best-known beach on the Cape Town coast. Both locals and visitors flock to this palm-lined strip for people-watching, to play beach bats or volleyball, walk their dogs or catch a tan while gazing up at the dramatic peaks of the Twelve Apostles range, part of Table Mountain.
If the wind picks up, hop onto the Camps Bay strip to one of many trendy restaurants, cafes or fashionable bars where Cape Town’s beautiful people dine on seafood or sip chilled local wine. On peak summer days these restaurants spill out onto the pavements, creating a wonderfully laid-back Mediterranean ambience.
TIP: During Cape Town’s peak summer season (December and January), Camps Bay’s main beach can get a little busy. Head in the direction of Clifton for just under a kilometre to discover the more secluded and locally loved Glen Beach.
Family fun, sunbathing, beach volleyball and sunset cocktails – it's an easy transition from the broad beach to the buzzing cafes on the Camps Bay strip.
About 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Cape Town on the way to Hout Bay and the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive, Llandudno may be a bit off the beaten track, but this spectacular beach is certainly a favourite among locals. A narrow road winds its way down through an exclusive hillside neighbourhood to a soft sandy cove where you’ll find children building sandcastles; groups of friends playing beach bats and frisbee; surfers carving patterns on the waves; and waggy-tailed dogs bounding about.
As with all the beaches along the Atlantic coastline, the sea is so refreshing it can make your skin tingle. However, it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset, so take snacks (there are no shops) and a beach umbrella and look forward to serious sunbathing followed by a romantic beach picnic.
Beach picnics, surfing, body boarding – Llandudno is a local favourite!
4. Boulders Beach
For a Cape Town beach with a unique twist, head to Boulders Beach. This soft-sand beach and slightly warmer sea (it’s on the False Bay coastline) are home to a large colony of endangered African penguins. These endearing birds have become minor celebrities and visitors flock to watch them strut their stuff between the hulking granite boulders – a highly entertaining sight to see.
Boulders Beach lies about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Cape Town, just beyond the naval base in picturesque Simon’s Town, which makes it a great stop on the way to or from Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Penguin watching, family fun and safe swimming.
Muizenberg is probably Cape Town’s ultimate family-friendly beach, with its warmer water, Blue Flag status, and quaint and colourful Victorian bathing boxes. This beautiful stretch of coastline is popular with families, dog walkers and surfers.
If you want to get some surfing lessons while on vacation in Cape Town, then this is the place. There are various companies operating from Muizenberg beach that offer surf lessons as well as surfboard and wetsuit rentals.
Swimming, long walks, surfing and surf lessons.
This stretch of coastline is situated about 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside the city centre and consist of a few different beaches – the most popular being the long Dolphin Beach strip, Small Bay and Big Bay.
Big Bay is one of the world’s best kitesurfing destinations and hosts an international competition every year. Hence, it’s a great place to enjoy wind-related water sports as well as surfing. Small Bay offers a quieter atmosphere that’s better suited for families and sunbathers.
TIP: If you want to take the quintessential, postcard-perfect photograph of Table Mountain, then head to Blouberg.
Windsurfing, kitesurfing, and stunning views of Table Mountain and Robben Island.